Being an ist of all isms, it’s time to enlist attention on the ism of sexism, or sexist, which is not really a word at all. In the strictest definition— root and suffix— sexist means pertaining to sex or one who practices it. Who’d throw stones at that? But in our topsy turvy world, the Webster dicktionary gang fell in with certain street mobs and jargheads.
With the regular rhythm of a sacred mantra, the buzz of an Ism is emitted whenever the vocal cavern of the jarghead is opened. And on the back of that winged buzz is meant to convey a raft of complexities, a congeries of judgments, invocations of revered names, circuses of concepts. As an example, sexism is prime. One of the first in our era when Webster and his gang had been coopted into defining…well, our era. Webster accomplishes this in his capacity as an official bullrusher of society. What Webster says goes, lingo-wise.
“Sexism,” says Webster, is “the economic exploitation and social domination of… women by men [sex + (rac)ism].” (Italics added)
This amounts to clear desperation on Webster’s part, a crude bullrushing attempt at accommodating common usage. Lexicographers often operate in the same method to account for the historical development of language and vocabulary. But the lingo gangs here work it like sewer maintenance, applying a drain approach to language definition and collecting any gutter utterance as “official” vocabulary.
Since it has little meaning in itself, the word sexist offers another prime example of the desperate methods employed. As stated, root and suffix really signify nothing more than someone who practices sex or is a member of one. But notice how that rascally Webster had to slip in parenthetically “(rac)ism” to lend the whole thing a note of authenticity. Even then, we are logically challenged to see the relationship per se between race and sex, except that perhaps both sex and race are practiced by all, and both require the participation of members.
Such are the contortions required to convert jingo— abra ca dabra— into lingo. And at this particular point in history that particular piece of jargon forms the fig leaf on a political ploy, a bit of propaganda with no less purpose than getting a president of the United States elected. In short, it offers the choice of a electing a man who may have slipped his hand up a woman’s skirt in the past— or maybe just talked about it— that, or Lady McBeth.
If it were only that one instance, it would simply be silly. But since this last charge of sexism has been backed by decades now of men losing jobs, wives, savings, families, not to mention previous elections— a parade headed by Gloria All Dread as drum majorette— it provides a rich compost for satire. It all brings up the question of what is a “sexual predator.”
There are all kinds of social predators, and women have historically brought up their end, what with Roman women as poisoners, and the like. But this latest ploy brought up by the “fair sex” is delightfully wicked. Twisty McFate should be proud. They’ve brought the vagina into the political arena. This was accomplished, first, on the basis that “the personal is political.” Second, that women have suffered sexual predation from the hands and mouth of a running presidential candidate. These are from the same pool of women who make up a majority of the work force, governmental administrative offices, clear on up to military generals.
There was even one general a few years ago who complained about sexual harassment from one of the biggest male eagles in the general staff. Though the press did not make privy to the public what the male general did to the female general, it’s still hard to imagine the situation without smiling, thinking how general George Patton would have handled his abuser.
Sure, it’s a case of the double standard: like wanting money and spending it too. Like having an individual who has grown up with the popular kick-ass go-girl mentality, have that same person quailing and fainting over the utterance of a word.
“Grab the smelling salts, guys. She went down quicker than a Victorian librarian!”
At a time when the people are deciding between a candidate for the presidency, one who made women uncomfortable with his clumsy approach (nothing formally proven, no rape), or to choose over that individual a more loathsome Lady McBeth.
Yet the question surrounding much of what is deemed sexism pokes into a deeper layer. The fact remains that for a long time guys have been notably queer for girls. Some creeps do tip the scales as actual aggressors toward females, such as the predators whose cases are eternally documented on television in lurid detail or portrayed in movies.
That’s on one side. But most American males, on the other hand, seem devilishly docile. Especially these days. And probably the most timid are ones who just like to look.
But even the act of looking could be interpreted as a leer, a scheme, or a threat by local patrols. So Trying Times has prepared the following defense for The Ogler, one who can’t help himself but scrutinize, with perhaps unconstitutional intensity, some innocent who happens to stray into his ken. That’s got to be some kind of special ism. Oglerism?
CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL OGLER
“I scrutinized her through a plate glass window.”
“Through plate glass! You must have a diamond tip!”
[Bit by two clowns of the now-deconstructed
President Follies Burlesque in San Francisco]
☞ Lounging, gawking at the Hawaiian surf beyond the terrace of a hotel room in Lihue, the thought that I should act my own age nags. It’s true, I should reserve more admiration for women of my own middle-age, for the dawdlers waddling along the sand between my shaded eyes and the surf. More respect for shanks spindly as the palms, dowager’s humps, and cottage cheese thighs. But I can’t. It’s impossible to ignore the display of curvaceous female flesh on the beach. The truth is quite clear. I see now that I have no chance of rehab from the commission of serious Eye Crime. So then, in recognition of my incorrigible state, I offer this as nothing more than the sober testimony of a serial ogler with no hope of recovery.
I began a life of ogling when knee-high to a garter strap. A precocious lech, I started as a leg man for the simple reason that I was no higher than the average thigh. I remember the flash of fascination at the sight of those funny goose-necked hooks that clipped up the tops of women’s nylons in that pre-pantyhose era. Then I was hooked.
And that was before Marilyn Monroe finished the job. All the way back to second grade that first fleeting peek at Fritzie May Long’s drawers is with me still. I saw London, as the saying went, I saw France, I saw Fritzie’s… Nowadays, not only is there an ascertainable view of Fritzie’s France. With what modish female peekaboo wear now affords, you can see generous portions of Fritzie’s whole south, her Gold Coast, clear to the Outback.
Alas, between the period of freshman ogling when Marilyn Monroe was queen of Oglees and present fare on the street today came the 70s, which started out as an absolute nightmare for leering— every leg shrouded in jeans. But the dedicated ogler is demonically resourceful. Instinct to ogle resides within the quick of existence. Textile manufacturers complied. Their art was transferred from nylon to dungaree material that stretched tight across the bum and— Yo!— the instinct to ogle was fed on an abundant field of butts, the low-hanging bulb of the flower.
Grandpa, what big eyes you have!
The better to ogle you with, my dear.
☞ Let’s not mince words. What is discussed here is known in less politic circles as what sailors call eye-fuck. Verb: to gaze at lecherously; ogle, to stare at and leer at a woman. That leaves the only virtue to claim is a diverse interest in the art. When it comes to ogling, I consider myself the compleat democrat; that is, one who makes no distinction as to race, color, creed, social status or body part. An equal opportunity ogler, I hold any woman to be fair game, just so long as she be acceptably ogleworthy.
I was reminded of my own stubborn recidivism for ogling upon learning that a professor had been, according to newspaper reports, condemned for sexual harassment in the act of ogling— “prolonged and intense staring” at a young woman at the university swimming pool. It quickly raised the question in my inquiring mind why such a mundane case of an ogleur and the recipient of an ogle, the oglee, should receive such undue attention. But that’s really their problem. For me, it went deeper. It stirred certain base notions regarding the art of ogling.
That case occurred in the 90s. One could have hoped that those involved in that circus dumb show would have in the meantime come to their senses. Senses in the literal sense: eyes, which are meant for watching. Such, unfortunately, has not been the case. In the university atmosphere today, where “hooking up”— jargon for casual sex— forms a curious behavior norm, there still flourish posses formed for hunting oglers, with of course a campus Office of Civil Rights to back that hunt.
One such instance is recorded by Charlotte Allen reporting a feminist push against philosophers. In her article, [The Professor’s Tale, THE WEEKLY STANDARD] Allen makes a couple of choice connections. The first is that there aren’t many women in philosophy departments. Second, women’ groups still show a predilection to take after the male philosophy personnel. (Curious conflict, eh what?) She reports that early in 2014: “the University of Colorado-Boulder ousted the chairman of its philosophy department after a report that some professors had gone out drinking with graduate students and other professors had been observed ‘ogling’ female undergraduates.”
Presumably, the professor-ogleurs, even though obviously rank amateurs, didn’t do anything uncool like hold their crotches in a lewd gesture and yell: “Hubba hubba!” In the first case, the ogled “victim” at the Canadian university suffered her ogling at a swimming pool. Presumably, she was wearing a bathing suit. Could it have been one similar to those women are barely wearing right now? Look at ‘em in Malibu— they’re thonging the beaches.
We’re definitely aware of the style. Suit cut with exceedingly generous openings which require continual adjustment— especially at the crotch— to keep the right spot covered. That spot of shame prods more than a spot of curiosity. In photos of political prisoners stripped naked, hands instinctively cover crotches. Spot of shame. Yet, with that same zone covered by a daring minimum, oglees stride the beach virtuously and defiantly, daring the lascivious eye of every ogler.
And who’s ashamed in the role of willing accomplice? I revel in the display provided by a swimsuit whose fabric helps to cause a goodly portion of the world’s water pollution. Faces smeared by some possibly carcinogenic cosmetic are part of the same cheap thrill. Tatooed. Accentuated by body hardware. Aren’t we all doing our part in the service of a mounting hysteria that fires an incredibly slavish urge toward self-exhibition?
☞ Yet, it’s difficult to sympathize with the professors the way it’s hard to feel sorry for any amateur who got in over his head. He dared tread where only the adept may glide. Since ogling is an art, as such, the practitioner needs proper skills and tools. Most important is the correct pair of sunglasses which provides a discrete amount of shade to disguise the aim of the male gaze. Next, you have to know how to scan-search, an ability enabling the effective ogler to process any number of body parts before zeroing in on that which is worth the odd ogle, while ignoring that which should be referred to the fitness center for overhaul.
An adept ogler is able to scrutinize prospects at a distance, and with radar rapidity. Oglees appear in human form like wind devils scuttling across the landscape, a cone of sudden wind stirring within it a quintessence of dust shimmering in the eye before it scatters. And the alert ogler is ready. Cursory scanning tells at a distance what body parts are readily available, and never— I repeat, never— would the true aficionado be so crude as to restrict his inspection to mere tits and ass. Singular attention to obvious body parts is rank discrimination. To the knowing eye, a well-turned ankle can be as formidable as mountainous breasts. If arms are shapely, odds are good that the legs are oglable as well. What lengths women go through to enhance the prospect is obvious.
Make no mistake, the seasoned ogler would not, nor should not cop to anything as vulgar as being a voyeur. The ogler happens upon the oglee spontaneously. Maybe in former times when women dressed more Islamic was voyeurism necessary. Today’s manners of dress and behavior make it unnecessary. With today’s low-cut and high-slit peekaboo costuming, the ogler finds no need to resort to anything as desperate as peeking through keyholes. Inexcusably bad form.
Actually, the only desperation involved seems lodged in the oglee’s own excessive need to exhibit herself. Such pain, effort, and fortune to modify the self. Everything to put on show, including attitude.
Had that inept professor properly scanned, he would have noted immediately his subject exhibiting a female hard-on which is instantly revealed by a mouth severely turned down at the sight of a “dirty old man.” Then he wouldn’t have persisted. Adept ogleurs know that when you scratch a vestal virgin a harpy comes to life. She’ll have him in court as the final act of finished refinement in the art of cockteasing. The kind to go to bed with a man only to hold him off. A woman with a hard-on is hardly attractive to anyone but a masochist. Thus, if the professor sought punishment, he found what he was looking for.
But the professor’s problem is, as it were, academic. Or it begs a larger question. What actually constitutes the act of ogling? What’s the difference between that and just plain looking? Is there an unconstitutional cock of the head? Is there an illegal cant of the eyeballs that pitches the casual observer across the line of decency into a murky underclass of wanton oglers?
SACRAMENTO— Gov. Gray Davis on Thursday signed into law a bill making it a crime for voyeurs to use hidden video cameras to look up the skirts of unsuspecting women.
[LA Times, 27 Aug 99]
☞ “Never underestimate the power of the thong,” writes one fashionista for the Lululand Times. (It’s for statements like that we call it the Lululand Times— every remark a Lulu.) But she’s right.
In the poem “To His Coy Mistress,” the poet challenges his lady’s reserve by exaggerating his own passion. Not unlike a modern pop crooner, Andrew Marvell swore undying love till the seas run dry, etc. Being of the seventeenth century courtly tradition, Marvell cast his message of seduction in reasoned argument and even offered mathematical proportions of how his ogling should go.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast:
But thirty thousand to the rest:
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
Note the proportion derived from this fantastical arrangement of praise for body parts: A mere hundred years for eyes, and surprisingly an even more scant appraisal of two hundred for each breast. Though this does not square with ogling a stripper bouncing around a pole in a titty bar, it must be remembered that these were different times; ogling changes its viewpoint yet remains instinctual. But dig it: “thirty thousand to the rest.” In short, Mr. Marvell surely backed the power of the thong.
Earliest human artifacts were pieces of stone collected because they resembled a female torso, the omphalos; this initial embodiment of Venus made red meat for atavistic oglers. Afterward, when stone was deliberately carved into the form of a torso, the viewers’ attention centered on the same focal point as the thong. Estimates on the earliest Venus has been, by those who know about such matters, pushed back in time to 40,000 years ago. This is also reported in the Lululand Times for what might be called extended thong coverage.
But between us dedicated oglers, you might prefer younger women. How about a French babe from the Bordeaux region of Aurignac? Although this chick has been around, she still doesn’t look a day over 20,000 years old. And check out the rack. One thing about those Paleolithic chicks: you can bet their only silicone enhancement is right there frozen in stone. And that object she’s holding up in her right hand… Those who know say it’s a fertility symbol, but we could easily see it as a more contemporary device.
Ogling “scrutineers,” after all, are descendants of hunters who were in the past strongly required to scope out the terrain for survival. Maybe the eyes are still working in the same capacity. After all, the hunt for a woman has taken on a larger proportion than searching out mammoth meat.
The omphalos nevertheless began an article of faith. She exhibited herself for worship at an early period when art conveyed more magic than money. So ritual ogling turned religious. It seems at least to have been a respectable pastime, and surely the earlier omphali literally put the oomph in ogling. Which might be why ancient Greeks placed Aphrodite in her temple with— as Joyce playfully writes in Ulysses — “all her belongings on show.” That expression is from Leopold Bloom’s soliloquy in which the frustrated husband experiences orgasm ogling a young maiden wading at the beach by merely spying her bare ankle: a red hot case of pinpoint ogling.
VENICE BEACH A GO-GO
Venice Beach wants another go at nude sunbathing, a practice forbidden in the city and county of Los Angeles. But judging by the letters to the editor we received, the law might be out of step with the people on this.
The reaction from readers to a Venice Neighborhood Council motion asking to be exempted from local laws on toplessness ranged from accepting shrugs to a few letters saying Venice faces more pressing concerns. Whatever ends up happening, we can take this as a sign that L.A.’s rapidly gentrifying hamlet by the beach will stay weird. — Paul Thornton, letters editor
P******* M*** of Los Angeles recalls a previous time of legalized toplessness:
This article brought back memories of when nude sunbathing was briefly allowed on Venice Beach decades ago. The people I knew at the time were all for it, but it wasn’t long before the male oglers, all fully dressed, outnumbered the sunbathers. Some would even come close to you, fully dressed, and lie down to ogle. Topless sunbathing is great; I think people should try it. But if it’s allowed again in Venice, we’ll see how long it takes for the oglers to outnumber the sunbathers.
☞ Do not misunderstand. This is not a justification for ogling, merely establishing precedent. I offer no excuse for my bad thoughts. But then, thinking that these thoughts are bad may be the particular fate of one confirmed in the Catholic faith, a penitent whose duty it was to confess crimes against the Holy Spirit. Certain lapses in conduct were to my young mind obvious transgressions, acts that would make a holy spirit frown. Filching money from your mother’s purse was clearly sinful. So was lying to the teacher about why you didn’t do your math.
But other transgressions fell into a gray area of guilt. Thinking about a nude woman was definitely one. The category that bothered me from early on was the sanctioned nude, such as classic paintings or photos of bare-breasted Papuan women in National Geographic. It was always unclear to me whether dwelling on those images was a bad thought or not. I imagined a confession that could have gone something like this:
“Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It’s been too long since my last confession. These are my sins. I took a quarter from my mother’s purse and I lied to Mrs. Niemeyer and…”
“Tell me, my boy. Did you go to mass on Sunday?”
“Did you have bad thoughts?”
“Are you sure you had no bad or impure thoughts?”
“Well, I did, father. But you can blame it on Botticelli.”
☞ An incorrigible ogler, I have in my possession a pair of 8-power binoculars. By aid of this fiendish device extending “my profane eyes” (delicious phrase from Casanova), I’m capable of ogling an entire beach full of women as they yank at the crotches of their skimpy bathing suits, tugging at straps, negotiating at each pull a compromise between frail decency and the most comprehensive tan. But Lord help your leering scrutineer when the Eye Police come to shake him down. They’ll probably even find the 200-millimeter telephoto lens stashed in my camera bag.
“But, officer, that’s only to photograph the brown-bellied bushtits. They’re such skittery critters. Honest.”
“Yeah, yeah, a likely story. Come along.”
“See here. See here…”
☞ from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?:
Roger’s sexy wife: “you don’t know what it’s like being a woman who looks like me.”
Detective Valentine: “You don’t know what it’s like being a man looking at a woman who looks like you.”
☞ Ogling professors are severely reprimanded, some even dismissed. But they aren’t the last to be thrown to righteous lions posing as moral inquisitors. More will likely be fed to the Eye Police by gutless colleagues to keep the shrieking harpies off their own backs. But that’s the terror in the lives of chickenshits: the harpies will return. They’re circling like chicken hawks right now. Why not? They scored. And now that the big skirts are gaining control of the schoolhouse and TV studio, timidity is required learning at the highest levels.
It’s time to close ranks. Oglers unite! You should know by now that men whose eyes live in glass bifocals should never throw stones at each other. Preserve our own rights too! In the present environment, what else is there to scrutinize in the badlands of our society? What else is there on the scene but pavement, concrete walls reflecting garish neon light, and people passing? No tigers, as there are in India. No water buffalo, as in Indonesia. Just a fussy gender mix of folks checking each other out, naked apes with shiny skin. How do you avoid noticing the brand of people who actually paint their skin to show off?
I’m reminded of a friend who was busted on the Paris Metro for ogling a bust. A buxom woman boarded the train baring a bodacious neckline to reveal a pair of breasts bulging almost to the nipples. His eyes bulged accordingly.
So she scolded him in her haughtiest tone: “No voyez pas!” He reports with regret for what he might have said. (Alas, the retort once missed, only good now for the Book of Rejoinders.) “I should have said,” he told me, “Ne montrez vous pas.”
What remarkably simple sense! What a coup for tranquilizing ogler watchdogs with one simple notion. Ogling would virtually cease to exist just by reversing the game from “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” to “Don’t show me yours and I won’t look.”
If life were that simple…
If life were that dull…
☞ Anyway it’s a quiet place to be, here at Lihue, my profane eyes ogling a sunny Hawaiian sky, a curling surf, and healthy bodies, baking. Such tranquility emboldens me to risk being charged with some proscribed Ism or other and hanker for the days when ogling was, if not respectable, at least quietly tolerated.
Tolerance, however, is not our civilization’s strong point these days. A parallel to the American Eye Police would be the followers of Islam. Yet the difference between Islamic god squads and our Politically Challenged domestic natives is clear: Muslim women don’t provoke the eye with ventilated crotch gear. Rather than stringy thongs, they generally drape themselves in ankle-length robes with sleeves down to and covering the wrists, not to mention hooded burquas featuring peek-a-boo eye holes shielded by gauze. Anyone caught ogling an apparition clothed like that in Arabian heat is fool enough to be beaten by the god squads.
Women’s concerns are understandable. Perhaps we cannot and should not support a world seething with crazed oglers. On the other hand, perhaps those opposed to the commission of eye crime do not understand that severe restrictions tend to provoke the ornery in people. I’m no exception. Whether in my native country or abroad, it makes no difference. I, along I’m sure with brother outlaws everywhere, suffer an ornery counter-urge to ogle the peerless Godivas trotting among us. Running the risk of having eyes or salary plucked, we blaspheme the social order with a look.
So bikinis, beware! There’s a serial ogler loose on the beach. And miniskirts, be mindful of how you cross your legs. He rides the bus! I confess to all of it: my indelible sin is to cast my male gaze with forthright intent, senses firing at molecular level, ogling oglees as they sashay by and saluting those hems riding high on the thigh.
Here’s looking at you, kid.